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Help or hindrance? The travel, energy and carbon impacts of highly automated vehicles

Listed author(s):
  • Wadud, Zia
  • MacKenzie, Don
  • Leiby, Paul
Registered author(s):

    Experts predict that new automobiles will be capable of driving themselves under limited conditions within 5–10years, and under most conditions within 10–20years. Automation may affect road vehicle energy consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in a host of ways, positive and negative, by causing changes in travel demand, vehicle design, vehicle operating profiles, and choices of fuels. In this paper, we identify specific mechanisms through which automation may affect travel and energy demand and resulting GHG emissions and bring them together using a coherent energy decomposition framework. We review the literature for estimates of the energy impacts of each mechanism and, where the literature is lacking, develop our own estimates using engineering and economic analysis. We consider how widely applicable each mechanism is, and quantify the potential impact of each mechanism on a common basis: the percentage change it is expected to cause in total GHG emissions from light-duty or heavy-duty vehicles in the U.S. Our primary focus is travel related energy consumption and emissions, since potential lifecycle impacts are generally smaller in magnitude. We explore the net effects of automation on emissions through several illustrative scenarios, finding that automation might plausibly reduce road transport GHG emissions and energy use by nearly half – or nearly double them – depending on which effects come to dominate. We also find that many potential energy-reduction benefits may be realized through partial automation, while the major energy/emission downside risks appear more likely at full automation. We close by presenting some implications for policymakers and identifying priority areas for further research.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0965856415002694
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice.

    Volume (Year): 86 (2016)
    Issue (Month): C ()
    Pages: 1-18

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:transa:v:86:y:2016:i:c:p:1-18
    DOI: 10.1016/j.tra.2015.12.001
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    1. Lyons, Glenn & Jain, Juliet & Holley, David, 2007. "The use of travel time by rail passengers in Great Britain," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 107-120, January.
    2. Nichols, Brice G. & Kockelman, Kara M., 2014. "Life-cycle energy implications of different residential settings: Recognizing buildings, travel, and public infrastructure," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 232-242.
    3. Schafer, Andreas & Victor, David G., 2000. "The future mobility of the world population," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 34(3), pages 171-205, April.
    4. Winebrake, James J. & Green, Erin H. & Comer, Bryan & Corbett, James J. & Froman, Sarah, 2012. "Estimating the direct rebound effect for on-road freight transportation," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 252-259.
    5. Wadud, Zia, 2011. "Personal tradable carbon permits for road transport: Why, why not and who wins?," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 1052-1065.
    6. Zabat, Michael & Stabile, Nick & Farascaroli, Stefano & Browand, Frederick, 1995. "The Aerodynamic Performance Of Platoons: A Final Report," Institute of Transportation Studies, Research Reports, Working Papers, Proceedings qt8ph187fw, Institute of Transportation Studies, UC Berkeley.
    7. Small, Kenneth A., 2012. "Valuation of travel time," Economics of Transportation, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 2-14.
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